3 Steps for How to Feed More Than Your Body

One of the challenging parts of eating mindfully is that many other things can disguise themselves as hunger, or at least make you want to eat.


Bored? Eating will give you something to do. Stressed? Food will distract and calm you, at least momentarily. Overwhelmed? Food is something concrete that you can control.


Those are just a few examples, but you get the idea.


If you eat when you’re not physically hungry, though, you have to be prepared for the consequences:

· You’ve eaten food you don’t need, so you may be uncomfortable and/or sluggish, and your body will store those extra calories.

· You haven’t addressed the underlying need, so it will come back.


This is why, when you want to eat but aren’t physically hungry, the best option is to meet your true need.


That’s easier said than done, though, so it helps to think of some likely needs ahead of time and come up with ideas of how to address them. This doesn’t mean you’ll never eat when you’re not hungry, but this approach will help reduce how often that happens.


With that in mind, here are some ways to start thinking about addressing those other needs.


Step 1: What type of need is it?

The first thing to do is see if you can identify what type of need it is, with most things falling into one of four broad categories:

· Physical

· Emotional

· Intellectual

· Spiritual


For example, sometimes being tired or thirsty can be confused with being hungry, but those are different physical needs. If you’re bored, that likely means you’re looking for something to challenge you intellectually or a creative outlet. If you’re looking for deeper connections with something outside of yourself, that would be more of a spiritual need.


Of course, some things can cross boundaries. If you’re lonely, that’s an emotional need, but it could also have a spiritual component if you miss being with others in a faith community. You could also be both bored and tired, and other combinations.


But it can still help to try to classify the need, with the goal of understanding and naming what’s coming up for you so you can better address it.


Step 2: What would satisfy that need?

Once you’ve identified the need, you can think about what would satisfy it without turning to food. This will be different for each person, but here are some ideas to get you started.


Physical

These needs are often the easiest to address if you can take the time to do it. This might include having something to drink, taking a short nap, going for a quick walk, or doing some deep breathing.


Emotional

These needs are more difficult to address, and you may need some short-term and long-term strategies. When you’re feeling down, for example, if you’re alone and have some time, you could give yourself space to feel that emotion and see where it’s coming from, or express it creatively.



If it’s during the middle of work, though, it’s probably better to do something simple to lift your spirits – listen to a good song, watch a funny YouTube video, etc. – so you can focus. Just be sure to go back later and try to find out the root cause of the emotion.


And remember, happy emotions can encourage you to eat, too, so you can think about different ways to celebrate that don’t always involve food.


Intellectual

These days, you have many ways to engage your intellect, so the most difficult part could be sorting through everything to find what most appeals to you. Due to the pandemic, more resources are available online, like virtual museum tours and online classes. You can also find podcasts on almost every topic, YouTube has tons of videos for Do It Yourself (DIY) projects, all the streaming services have documentaries, and of course, you can always read up on topics you’re interested in or listen to audiobooks.


Spiritual

This is another one that can take some exploration to figure out, although bear in mind that it doesn’t have to mean joining a faith community. That’s an option, of course, if you’re looking for that kind of community. But you could also read inspiring books or listen to talks by people who have a deeper view of the world. Depending on your interests, being out in nature can be very spiritual, and so can creative hobbies. Give yourself some space and time to explore and see what’s a good fit for you.


Step 3: How can you put this into practice?

And finally, you need a plan for how to use what you’ve come up with.


It can help to have a list of ideas for things to do in different situations. That way, you’re not trying to brainstorm from scratch every time, particularly when you might not be in a good place to do that.


You can also set an intention in the morning that if you’re not hungry but feel like eating, you want to satisfy your true need instead of turning to food. This will help you remember to go back to your ideas when those situations come up.


And if there’s a time when you eat anyway, that’s okay. Just try to revisit that experience later and figure out what you could have done differently.


Hunger comes in many forms

Although we often think of hunger as a physical need for food, we have other types of hunger, too. You might crave listening to good music, reading an engrossing book, getting out in the garden, learning a new skill, being around people who inspire you, seeing beautiful places, and more.


The key is not to get these desires confused with physical hunger. If you’re not hungry for food, you can still eat, but it won’t be as satisfying. Instead, it’s much better to identify what that hunger is truly about and then feed it, so you’ll be getting what you truly need.

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